Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last Call

Not only are fossil-fuel emissions bad for the planet and for your lungs, but they may also harm your baby's developing brain. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics links mothers' exposure to high levels of environmental pollutants during pregnancy to a four-point drop in children's IQ scores by age 5.
I'm going to bed.

Birther Of A Nation, Part 5

If Orly Taitz is Queen of the Birthers, then I've just found her a king. (via BooMan) It's everyone's favorite right wing crackpot/crook/general nogoodnik, G. Gordon Liddy!

"My argument is that this whole thing could be settled in a minute if the President would just produce a valid birth certificate. So far as I know, he has not. He's produced a quote "Certificate of Live Birth", you can't get a passport with that, you can't even register your son for Little League with that. That's the problem," he says.

Tweety then pulls out a copy. Gordo says "Well, I would like to check it out." He goes on to declare the President "an illegal alien born in Kenya." Tweety tries to talk him down with a decent stream of logic, that Obama's gone to school and college and gotten jobs where his papers of course would have been checked out, he's gotten a passport and driver's license and everything.

Gordo "wants to see their records." Tweety has access to them, Gordo says, and he doesn't, and he wants to check them out. Tweety goes on with that pesky logic stuff. "You claim he's in the country illegally and that he's not only not legally President, he's in the country illegally and he should be picked up. You claim he was born in the Kenyan slums, you say that as a fact."

Gordo grumbles "I said a hospital in Mumbasa, not Kenya."

The great thing about the Birther Game is whenever the Village drags a birther lunatic onto the stage to perform for America, if Obama doesn't come into the studio himself and produce a birth certificate, the Birthers win. If Obama does come into the studio and produce a birth certificate, it's clearly a fake. The Birthers win anyway. They can't lose as long as the Village keeps putting them on f'ckin television to say "THIS MAN IS OUR PRESIDENT ILLEGALLY. WON'T ANYONE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, NUDGE NUDGE WINK WINK KNOWUTIMEAN?"

And they go raving around decrying the President as an illegal alien Muslim sleeper cyborg Antichrist worse than Hitler Socialist Fascist (now with civil liberties destroying action), exposing millions to the crazy notion that our President is illegitimate and the fact the law won't do anything about it, and then the Village goes "Hmm, we should put these people on the air to discuss this theory. Clearly it is growing in popularity." Yeah, that won't backfire!

They can't lose. It's the perfect, self-perpetuating Village meme for the next 3 years and six months. They will be talking about Obama's birth certificate decades from now. It will become the second gunman on the grassy knoll, Vince Foster's death, the carburetor that gets 100 MPG and Jimmy Hoffa's grave all rolled into one, plus he's black!

I weep. All of us should. It's happening all over again and it will never stop unless we make it stop. The Village understands exactly what it is doing by giving these fruitcakes a forum and a voice. They love it. It's ratings gold!

That is as long as we refuse to turn off the TV permanently when they roll out the circus. Think it's time to consider a boycott if this keeps up.

More On The Jersey Kidney Mayor Rabbi Corruption Gate Thing

You know you've got a decent scandal when people not arrested are resigning their positions anyway.
A member of the New Jersey governor's cabinet has resigned amid a sweeping corruption investigation that has ensnared three mayors, two state legislators and several rabbis.

Speaking Thursday at a news conference, Gov. Jon Corzine said he asked Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria to step down and that Doria agreed to leave office.

Corzine says Doria could not be effective with such a serious investigation going on.

Doria's home was raided earlier today in the same sweep. As head of the Department of Community Affairs, Doria was in charge of the city of Camden (the city's government is administered by the state currently) as well as being the state's guy in charge of about $10 billion in federal stimulus money. He was a big player in state politics with that kind of purse string power, possibly the biggest so far. He's only been in the DCA position for about a year.

Needless to say, this is going to get good.

Victory Laps

Glenn Thrush notes that today Rick Scott, one of the architects behind the effort to kill Obamacare, is taking his victory laps early.
Thanks to a collective effort by a loose knit coalition of free market health care advocates, conservative grassroots groups, and some reasonable-minded elected officials, I am very confident, after meetings on the Hill this week, that if Congress does not pass a health care bill with the public option before Labor Day, the public option is dead. While Victory is near, we must not rest.

Earlier today, Senate Majority Harry Reid acknowledged that there would be no health care vote in the Senate until the fall. Still, liberal, pro-government health care advocates are intensifying their campaigns and increasing the decibel level of their rhetoric to demonize elected officials who are rightly opposed to the public option and a government take-over of health care. We must meet them head on and continue with ads, news events (particularly in the grassroots), media appearances, etc, to finish off the public option, which is no option at all as it would be devastating to patients, our economy and our health care system.
Victory in the battle to save our precious insurance companies and nubile, tender young millionaires from the depredations of the liberals trying to provide health care for filthy poor people is at hand! (High-fives and pinot grigio all around!)

Truly, America will remember us for the day we killed universal health care and saved millions of dollars in insurance company profit bonuses! Civilized countries have a health care industry with profit margins. If the proles get health care, they may want other things like representation, civil liberties and Two for Tuesdays at Pizza Hut.

What a horrific place that America would be.

In A Mood

Man, I am just out of sorts today from the whole Skip Gates and Witch Doctor thing, not to mention the New Jersey kidney thing. Barry, what have you got for me today?

“Economics was the only profession where a person could be considered an expert without having once been right.”

-George Meany

Not bad. After all, Meany said that in 1971 before the Rise Of The Wingnut Welfare State. He's still right about economists today however. Most of them seem to work for CNBC.

[UPDATE 4:32 PM] White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle just tossed a perfect game vs. the Rays. Now I feel better.

Flying At 15,000

Over at the TechTicker, the Dow crossing the 9,000 mark has all the bulls out and on the lawn, leaving piles of crap everywhere. Brian Wesbury is calling the Dow at 12,000 in 12 months, and retracing its highs to 15,000 over the next couple years.

Hey, considering the banks are using the same 30-plus to 1 leverage playbook from 2005-2007 and are once again handing out TEH BONUS to people, why shouldn't we expect a financial replay on the Dow from July 2005 to July 2007 only better, right?

Followed up, of course, by a replay of July 2007 to July 2009, only much, much worse.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

And now it turns out New Jersey is the hotbed of allegations of international money laundering to Israel through Rabbis and selling human kidneys for transplants, all revealed over a 3-year operation for an undercover federal agent running a tile company.

Kevin Smith, J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon working together couldn't have come up with a better script.

And Speaking Of Spineless Dems...

Harry Reid has just put the fork in getting Obamacare done before the August recess.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) confirmed today that the Senate would not pass health care reform legislation before the August recess.

That the Senate would miss President Obama's Aug. 7 deadline had been obvious for days, if not weeks, as the Finance Committee methodically crafts the one version of the legislation that is expected to gain bipartisan support. But Reid finally made it official, informing reporters that he had granted a request for more time from GOP negotiators.

"I don't think it's unreasonable," said Reid. "This is a complex, difficult issue."

Sure. It's been 16 years after all since Hillarycare. Another month/year/presidential term/generation isn't "unreasonable."

And I'm sure we'll see the same "Health care reform is hard, we'll need more time" in September and October and through the holidays, and then through 2010 when Harry tells us we can't honestly expect to get this passed in an election year, and in 2011 when Harry tells us "Well we just don't have the votes now..."

And of course we'll keep nodding our heads and be told by the Village that Skip Gates and nancy Pelosi killed Obamacare and we had only listened to Judd Gregg, and we'll go "yeah, you know they're right..."

And later that year Ben Nelson will announce he's running for President on a platform of not reforming anything...

Le sigh.

[UPDATE 5:15 PM] And up in Cleveland today, Obama admits that there's not going to be Obamacare by August, but that it's "OK".

"We just heard today that, well, we may not be able to get the bill out of the Senate by the end of August, or the beginning of August," President Obama said. "That's OK. I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working."
Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...

...all the way to Carter Country. 60 Senate Dems, 235 House Dems. 60% of Congress is not enough to pass legislation when the minority party only cares about destroying the President six months into his term.

[UPDATE 5:25 PM] As Yggy points out, the GOP1993-1994 playbook is in full effect.

INHOFE: Oh, I think so. I really do. In fact, there’ll be a lot of Democrats. You know, I liken it to the cap and trade thing. Now that’s the one that I’ve been kind of in charge of for ten years, and we know where we are on that now. We know that if, as long as people keep talking the way they are right now, we’re going to defeat it. They only have 34 votes. They need 60 votes. I’d say health care right now is somewhere in the neighborhood of, they have maybe 45 votes. But every day, they lose votes, because people find out what it is, what it’s going to do, and what it’s not going to do. When you tell people that the mortality rate in Canada is 25% higher for breast cancer, 18% higher for prostate cancer, you know, they say why in the world would we emulate a system like that? This is life threatening. And so we have all the issues on our side on this thing, and I think, you know, I just hope the President keeps talking about it, keeps trying to rush it through. We can stall it. And that’s going to be a huge gain for those of us who want to turn this thing over in the 2010 election.
Killing Obamacare will put the GOP in charge of Congress. That's the logic. They figure you're going to be so happy, so grateful to the lies and the misinformation and the talk radio cries of socialism and the slick Villagers making millions a year, telling you that there's no health care crisis, that you'll be so ecstatic that the Republicans have killed health care reform for another generation that you'll sweep them back into office in 2010.

That's what they believe. Think about that.

My Kingdom For A Spine

Harold Meyerson laments the lack of spinal integrity in the California Democratic Party.
Like the Gingrichites, the Sacramento Republicans began to close down the government -- in their case, by refusing to pass a budget unless it addressed the shortfall entirely through cuts. But Sacramento 2009 has some signal differences from Washington 1996. For one thing, the Democrats have no well-known leader to argue their case -- both to legislators and to the public. For another, there are no more moderates in the Republicans' shrunken ranks. And crucially, the state Constitution gives the GOP the power to hold to its extremist views and nonetheless prevail. Faced with a choice between badly diminished public services and, should the state continue to be budgetless, no public services at all, the Democratic leadership acceded to the Republicans' demands.

The consequences of those demands are stark. Hundreds of thousands of children will lose their healthcare and tens of thousands of aged and disabled California will lose their in-home support services. Public K-12 schools will continue to lay off teachers and cut class offerings, and both the University of California and the state university system will have their state funding cut by roughly 20%. At a time when state business leaders are crying out for a better-educated workforce, the Republicans in the Legislature have pushed through policies that will make the state both sicker and dumber.

The cutbacks also will deepen the state's already deep recession. Public employees will have less money to spend. City and country redevelopment agencies, their funds impounded by Sacramento, will suspend their construction projects -- and there are precious few construction projects in the state today besides those that redevelopment agencies are funding.

Indeed, the cutbacks may trigger a vicious cycle: By worsening the recession, they further reduce state revenues, which will lead to even more cutbacks as long as the Republicans continue to cling to one-third of the Legislature and to their distinctive brand of concern for the welfare of the state. (They are concerned about California like the Visigoths were concerned about Rome.)

The Republicans' California isn't a state that most Californians want to live in. Given a choice between creating an extraction tax on oil companies (a tax that every other state with oil already has, but which the Sacramento Republicans rejected) and decimating the state's universities, I think Californians would opt to tax Exxon rather than reduce the number of science students. But how do we stop the downward spiral before Republicans reduce the state to the status of an Oklahoma or Alabama or the other GOP garden spots?

First, Democrats in the Legislature should consider calling the GOP's bluff and voting against the budget deal -- but they can't make their case absent a public spokesman. It's time for Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom to rise to the challenge that Clinton did when he stood down Gingrich. And second, Californians need to amend their state Constitution, in convention if need be, to end the practice of minority rule. Democracy -- not to mention the future of the state -- depends on it.
That's the problem of course. The GOP played the scorched earth card, and the Dems rolled over, giving in on every cut the Governator and the state Republicans demanded they take. The best part is the GOP will now demand tax cuts to "grow the economy" and billions more in program cuts to pay for them. They will get them, too. The great GOP experiment that is California is as much the fault of wimpy, spineless Dems as it is GOP fanatics.

The Republican plan seems to be "drive as many people out of the state as possible". Talk about going Galt.

Quote Of The Week

Good ol' tristero at Hullabaloo, on Jon Stewart skewering the Birthers Wednesday night:
But there is a very serious, very sobering reality behind all the humor: Until the so-called news media stops providing access to jokers like the birthers, then the best news reports in America will be produced by a professional comedian.
Couldn't have said it any better.

Which Doctor?

This makes Zandar very, very angry, as Zach Roth at the Muck reports.

The election of our first black president has brought with it a strange proliferation of online racism among conservatives.

And we've got the latest example.

On Sunday night, Dr. David McKalip forwarded to fellow members of a Google listserv affiliated with the Tea Party movement the image below. Above it, he wrote: "Funny stuff."

Not showing the image. My blog, my prerogative. It shows Obama as an African "witch doctor" with the caption Obamacare, coming soon to a clinic near you. Somewhat NSFW. But turns out Dr. David McKalip there is quite the piece of work.
Now, Tea Party activists trafficking in racist imagery are pretty much dog bites man. But McKalip isn't just some random winger. He's a Florida neurosurgeon, who serves as a member of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates.

He's also an energetic conservative opponent of health-care reform. McKalip founded the anti-reform group Doctors For Patient Freedom, as well as what seems to be a now defunct group called Cut Taxes Now. Last month he joined GOP congressmen Tom Price and Phil Gingrey, among others, for a virtual town hall to warn about the coming "government takeover of medicine." And in a recent anti-reform op-ed published in the St. Petersburg Times, McKalip wrote that "Congress wants to create larger, government-funded programs for health care and more bureaucracy that ration care and impose cookbook medicine."

So, for the assholes out there blaming Obama for making the country uncomfortable about race last night, YES, WE STILL HAVE AN ENDEMIC RACISM PROBLEM IN THIS COUNTRY. It still exists. I am sorry it makes you uncomfrotable that our President chooses to address it. He has that right.

We all have to deal with this. And you know what? These guys aren't helping. When the President brings up race, he is. Don't blame Obama for racism. It's not him doing it, okay?

Pardon, The Interruption

TIME Magazine has a fascinating look into the Nameless One/Dubya fight over pardoning Scooter Libby on the way out the door, but what does that mean about Eric Holder's investigation and Cheney's future?

These last hours represent a climactic chapter in the mysterious and mostly opaque relationship at the center of a tumultuous period in American history. It reveals how one question — whether to grant a presidential pardon to a top vice-presidential aide — strained the bonds between Bush and his deputy and closest counselor. It reveals a gap in the two men's views of crime and punishment. And in a broader way, it uncovers a fundamental difference in how the two men regarded the legacy of the Bush years. As a Cheney confidant puts it, the Vice President believed he and the President could claim the war on terrorism as his greatest legacy only if they defended at all costs the men and women who fought in the trenches. When it came to Libby, Bush felt he had done enough.

But the fight over the pardon was also a prelude to the difficult questions about justice and national security inherited by the Obama Administration: How closely should the nation examine the actions of government officials who took steps — legal or possibly illegal — to defend the nation's security during the war on terrorism? The Libby investigation, which began nearly six years ago, went to the heart of whether the Bush Administration misled the public in making its case to invade Iraq. But other Bush-era policies are still coming under legal scrutiny. Who, for example, should be held accountable in one of the darkest corners of the war on terrorism — the interrogators who may have tortured detainees? Or the men who conceived and crafted the policies that led to those secret sessions in the first place? How far back — and how high up the chain of command — should these inquiries go?

As Attorney General Eric Holder weighs whether to name a special prosecutor to probe reports of detainee abuse during the Bush era, Democratic lawmakers are trying to determine why Cheney demanded that Congress be kept in the dark about some covert CIA plans after 9/11. There is no guarantee that these and other probes won't at some point require the testimony of the former President and Vice President. While Bush has retired to Texas to write his memoirs and secure his legacy by other means, Cheney is settling in for a long siege in Washington, where he will soon be installed in a conservative think tank and where, Republicans say, he will pull levers on Capitol Hill to make his voice heard. Above all, Cheney will continue to insist that the Commander in Chief and his lieutenants had almost limitless power in the war on terrorism and deserved a measure of immunity for taking part in that fight. That's a conviction Cheney made clear to all those involved in the Libby affair — including, in his final hours in power, the President himself.

You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say this was an attempt to get Bush off the hook and put Cheney on it.
Bush and Cheney remain friends but have gone in different directions since leaving office. Bush returned to Texas, where he is raising millions for his presidential library and writing a book about his most pivotal decisions as President. Bush believes he put the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq on solid footings and will let history speak for his presidency. And Barack Obama? He "deserves my silence," Bush has said.

For Cheney, the fight goes on. Working from a transition office in McLean, Va., he immediately re-entered the fray. He gave a number of high-profile TV interviews in which he decried the closing of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay and defended what the Bush team called "enhanced interrogations," including waterboarding, as necessary intelligence tools to safeguard the nation. He also warned of another terrorist attack if Obama's policies were left unchecked. He assumed the role of opposition leader on May 21, challenging Obama's antiterrorism policies in a televised speech. Only minutes earlier, Obama had given an address defending his plans for detaining and trying al-Qaeda members on U.S. soil. Cheney is writing a book as well.

Former Bush aides say Cheney's behavior needlessly stoked anti-Bush sentiment, which had only just begun to subside in voters. For Cheney, however, the ongoing battles are an extension of the fight he waged for several years on behalf of Libby. Cheney, says an ally, believes that the true legacy of the Bush years is the uncompromising way he and the President waged the war on terrorism. But Cheney also believes that Bush cannot claim that as a legacy if he fails to protect the aides and officials who carried out the dirty work.

It is an increasingly lonely fight. But as Democrats edge closer to probing the Bush-era practices, perhaps including CIA interrogators, Justice Department lawyers and Cheney's closest aides, it appears his darkest fears may be coming true. Since Cheney was often the man responsible for the policies that are now under scrutiny, it is perhaps no surprise that he is leading the counterrevolt. "I think it is very, very important that we have a clear understanding that what happened here was an honorable approach to defending the nation," Cheney said on May 10. "There was nothing devious or deceitful or dishonest or illegal about what was done."

This is the case Dick Cheney made for years in the Bush White House, prevailing for a long time, until he was outnumbered and outgunned. And it is one he seems prepared to make, without Bush at his side, for a long time to come.

The only pardon I see here is the Village pardoning Bush and pointing the finger at ol' Dick. Now, I wonder why that is, especially given the Liz Cheney My Dad Didn't Do It Tour. Could it be that despite the warnings to Obama that Congress won't play ball on health care if the investigations go on, that the Village is now hedging its bets on The Dickster having problems in the future?

That's a complete about face from earlier this year. Could this be the first of many Village reports advocating throwing him under the bus? I'm honestly not sure. But it will be interesting to watch.

Plan Of Attack

Surprise surprise, now that the GOP Plan is out of the bag ("break Obama"), the Republicans no longer have any plans for their own health care bill.
When House Republicans go on the attack against health care reform, one of the more common responses is to ask, "OK, but where's the Republican plan?" It's easy to attack; it's challenging to be productive.

Last night, The Hill reported that the GOP caucus has effectively given up on offering an alternative, and will instead stick to attacking.

Republicans who had promised last month to offer a healthcare reform alternative are now suggesting no such bill will be introduced.

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, "Our bill is never going to get to the floor, so why confuse the focus? We clearly have principles; we could have language, but why start diverting attention from this really bad piece of work they've got to whatever we're offering right now?"

Blunt, who is running for Senate, is chairman of the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group. Cantor made similar comments to The Hill in June, saying Republicans would eventually offer legislative language on healthcare reform.

Democrats on Wednesday called out Republicans, reminding reporters in an e-mail that Blunt had guaranteed that the GOP would introduce a bill.

All things being equal, the GOP is probably making the right call by failing to offer an alternative. In fact, if I were a Republican strategist, I'd probably advise the party to do exactly this. Producing a GOP reform plan would not only give Democrats a target, it would offer people a chance to compare the two approaches to the issue, and in a side-by-side match-up, it's hardly a stretch to think the Dems would come out on top.

What's more, the Republican track record on alternative solutions is truly abysmal. The GOP budget alternative was a humiliating failure (you may recall, it lacked numbers). The GOP stimulus alternative -- tax cuts and a five-years spending freeze -- was so ridiculous, even some conservatives labeled it "insane." With this in mind, there's no need for the party to humiliate itself with a health care plan.

I think there's every need for the GOP to humiliate itself by having a health care plan, if only to prove the Democrats' point that this issue affects all of America. But sure, if I were a GOP strategist, I'd be doing the same. Why pretend the Republican Party cares at all about reforming health care in any other way other than creating a massive subsidy for insurance company corporate donors? After all, as Steve says here, if you look too closely at the GOP idea of health care reform, you see it's all about the insurance companies, not people.

Still, it shows just how bereft of actual ideas the GOP is.

Gates At The Barbarians

So, I promised to weigh in on the Skip Gates arrest and the President's reaction to it. Being a large African-American man myself, I can relate. I've not been pulled over myself for "driving while Black" but I have been asked to leave a couple of business establishments over the years. People are jerks, what can I say.

Obama's reaction, having sponsored legislation as an Illinois State Senator to fight racial profiling, was both political and impassioned. Yes, racial profiling does exist. But blaming Obama for reminding the country that it does is idiotic. It exists. We're going to have to as a country deal with it. Was Skip Gates arrested because he was black? I don't know. My guess is he lost his damn temper and the cop said "that's enough out of you." The cop who arrested him isn't apologizing, that's for damned sure. Still, if Gates was white, would he have been arrested? Would the neighbor who called the cops still have called the cops?

And as much as I disagree (vehemently) with Don Surber on most things, this comment:
But if I were a cop, I’d wear a video camera helmet 24/7.
...actually isn't a bad idea.

I don't know. None of this is good.

Garden State Of Insanity

Big story breaking this morning in New Jersey, a joint FBI/IRS corruption sweep has netted several arrests in Newark, WABC is reporting.
Eyewitness News has learned Hoboken's newly elected mayor, Peter Cammarano and Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell were both arrested, as was Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Baldini.

According to officials the dozens of suspects, including several rabbis, were being brought to FBI Headquarters in Downtown Newark.

Numerous Jersey City political officials were also arrested this morning.

They include: Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Baldini and Jersey City Council President Mario Vega, Jersey City Council candidate La Vern Webb-Washington and Michael Manzo, a long-time veteran of the Jersey City fire department.

Manzo appears to be at the center of the probe, which involve money-laundering and political bid rigging.

They will be arraigned in federal court in Newark later today.

More as it develops.

[UPDATE 9:29 AM] CNN is picking up the story. Rabbis? Fire department veterans? Mayors and Deputy Mayors from multiple cities? The hell is going on here?

Press conference at noon EDT.

[UPDATE 10:28 AM] Needless to say, this being local New Jersey politics, these guys are Democrats. If Gov. Jon Corzine didn't have enough problems running for re-election already, he's in serious trouble by association right now.

[UPDATE 11:14 AM] Joe Ryan at the Newark Star-Ledger has more:
No indictments have been released, though court appearances are expected later today in U.S. District Court in Newark. Nearly 20 people have already been led into the FBI building in Newark as the sweep continues to unfold in two states.

Agents also raided religious institutions to make arrests and collect information.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and the IRS took out at least three boxes from the Deal Yeshiva, as students were arriving at school. The Deal Yeshiva, on the corner of Brighton and Norwood avenues, is a prestigious religious school in town.

Authorities also searched the Ohel Yaacob synagogue on Ocean Avenue in Deal and removed several boxes.

This is getting very interesting.

[UPDATE 12:08 PM] More from CNN.
The FBI began the large operation three years ago. The public corruption and money-laundering probes are separate but are linked by common players, a source close to the investigation said.

The source described the alleged public corruption as "straight bribery" -- cash-filled envelopes exchanged for political influence.

The other investigation centered on a group of rabbis who allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars through their religious organizations for a fee, according to the source.

Not good.

[UPDATE 12:57 PM] At least one Republican was busted too in the sting. Information from the press conference:
Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Peter Cammarano III and New Jersey Assembly members Daniel Van Pelt and L. Harvey Smith were among those arrested, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, New Jersey.

A federal criminal complaint alleges that Cammarano, 32, a Democrat, took about $35,000 in bribes from a government witness posing as a real estate developer.

Another complaint alleges that Van Pelt, a Republican, accepted $10,000 in cash as "consulting fees" after an FBI official posing as a real-estate executive asked him to help fast-track a real estate project in Waretown, New Jersey, a section in Van Pelt's district. Van Pelt, 44, also is mayor of Ocean Township.

Others arrested in the public corruption portion of the investigation include Secaucus, New Jersey, Mayor Dennis Elwell, 64, who is president of a family-owned trucking company, and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, the U.S. attorney's office said.

The probe also involves a "high-volume, international money-laundering conspiracy," the office said. Rabbis in New York and New Jersey were arrested in connection with the money-laundering part of the investigation, the office said.

Well What Did You Expect?

Honestly, this seems like the silliest complaint I've seen from lawmakers in some time.

But Wall Street, helped by improving profits, is on track to pay employees as much as, or even more than, it did in the pre-crisis days. So far this year, the top six U.S. banks have set aside $74 billion to pay their employees, up from $60 billion in the corresponding period last year.

The increase in set-asides for employee pay has raised the ire of Washington, where lawmakers denounced financial leaders for returning to old habits and vowed to enact measures governing executive compensation.

"It strengthens our commitment to getting legislation passed," Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview Wednesday, adding that a committee vote on a bill to increase oversight of Wall Street pay has been scheduled for Tuesday. "The amounts are troubling."

Goldman Sachs caused a stir last week when it disclosed it had set aside a record $6.6 billion for compensation expenses in the most recent quarter, bringing the total for the first six months of the year to $11.4 billion. If that pace continues for the rest of the year, Goldman's employees will earn an average of about $773,000, more than double the figure last year and even exceeding the $700,000 paid in 2007.

The recent set-asides came as Goldman announced it earned a record $3.4 billion for the second quarter, positioning itself, along with J.P. Morgan Chase, as one of the strongest banks to emerge from the crisis.

But some analysts and investors had especially sharp words for Wall Street rival Morgan Stanley, which reported Wednesday that it had set aside $6 billion so far this year for compensation expenses even as it recorded its third straight quarterly loss. In reporting its second-quarter results, Morgan Stanley said it lost $1.26 billion, after accounting for one-time charges including an $850 million expense related to paying the government back after its bailout. Still, the company set aside $3.9 billion in compensation expenses, representing 72 percent of its revenue for the quarter.

I see a number of major problems here.

One, we're still waiting on Congress to actually get legislation to the President to sign. Both the Dems and the GOP are foot-dragging on this. As Dick Durbin famously said this April, Wall Street "owns the place".

Two, if you want to know where all this money that banks are getting is coming from, remember the AIG counterparty bailouts earlier this year. The $100 billion that went to AIG to satisfy its creditors was a back door bailout to the banks that they never have to pay back. No wonder they are right back where they were, and paying out even larger bonuses.

Three, why shouldn't the banks go right back to doing what they were doing before? They know that if things really go wrong again, they'll get bailed out. The big banks live, the small banks die.

It's business as usual, and the guys feigning outrage at it are the ones who should have passed regulation months ago as part of the bailout. Instead, nothing was done...and the banks will continue to gorge themselves on big profits and huge bonuses courtesy of you and me...while peons like us continue to lose half a million jobs a month.

And we'll be right back in the same crisis situation down the road. Perhaps Congress will complain then, too.

If It's Thursday...

Jobless claims up 30k to 554,000, but continuing claims down again to 6.2 million. Again, automotive workers getting summer furloughs are causing weird data, but it's still a lot of new claims.

Things will continue to get worse.

OBAMAVISION, The Morning After

The Village reaction to Obama's health care presser last night runs the gamut from "The President has weighed in on the Skip Gates incident" to "Well yes, you expect the President to defend his friend" to "Why does the President hate police officers so much?" to "ACORN IS EVIL!"

A couple of folks do try at least to focus on the actual health care part of the presser, but couldn't really help themselves. The NY Times:
Asked what the rush was to meet his August deadline for passage of House and Senate bills, Mr. Obama replied: “I’m rushed because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs. They ask me, ‘Can you help?’ ”

In fact, there is another reason Mr. Obama is rushed: he knows time is not on his side. The more Congress delays passage of a health bill, the more time his Republican opponents will have to marshal their opposition and kill it.

“If you don’t set deadlines in this town, things don’t happen,” Mr. Obama said. “The default position is inertia.”
And the WaPo:
Six months after his inauguration, Obama finds his signature domestic issue stalled on Capitol Hill, where House Democratic leaders are working to quell dissension and the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate acknowledged that action probably will be delayed until September.

Addressing what he called "entirely legitimate" skepticism, the president vowed that health-care reform would drive down costs, eventually saving families thousands of dollars. But he struggled to explain how any of the measures under consideration would fulfill that promise.

For the past week, Obama has engaged in a two-pronged campaign to woo recalcitrant lawmakers and sell nervous voters from the bully pulpit. The news conference seemed to be intended less to stake out new ground than to calm a nation still reeling from the economic meltdown. "The American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficits and debt that we're facing right now," he said.

You'd think we were talking about Bush, circa 2006 here...only then the Village would have said it was Congress's fault for delaying the President's agenda, and not the President's fault for "rushing things".

I haven't weighed in on the Skip Gates incident yet myself, I will at some point today. But in all honesty, I thought the President did a good job of explaining the stakes.


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